It’s getting colder outside. Exams are just around the corner. Staying under the covers with a great book or movie and a warm beverage sounds like just about the perfect escape from all the end-of-semester worries. And since this year Thanksgiving shared the date with National Espresso Day, we thought it would be the perfect time to scope out Rochester’s best coffee shops.

Using recommendations from our friends and Yelp reviewers, we set out to try third wave coffee shops in the surrounding area to see if any of them could be the perfect solution for keeping you warm, awake, and productive in the upcoming weeks. Here are our five top picks:

  1. Fuego Coffee Roasters

Coming in with the highest Yelp ratings, Fuego was a definite can’t miss location. Located in Downtown Rochester right off East Ave, Fuego has an interesting and unique vibe that mixes the lives of downtown corporate workers and the city’s Eastman School of Music students.

Fuego was started by high school sweethearts, and they continue to take pride in the fact that they put so much care in every step of the coffee roasting process – from finding the best coffee beans to using the best artisanal brewing techniques to achieve the best tasting cup of coffee. Upon walking into the cafe, you will feel at home as you can order straight at the bar, sit down and your coffee will be brought straight to you. In our top five, Fuego was the only coffee shop with the unique aspect that you paid at the end of your visit.

It was easily to tell that Fuego is obviously very involved in its neighborhood as there was a wide array of flyers about upcoming shows, events and even ones announcing that Rochester’s own Petit Poutine truck would be stopping by the following Wednesday.

For their smooth and sweet espresso, Fuego earns a spot on our list, however – due to it’s distance away from RIT and longer wait times than the other coffee shops we visited, it doesn’t quite earn the top marks.

  1. Java’s

We couldn’t make a round-up list of the best coffee shops in town without including Java’s, right here on campus. Not only is their espresso delicious but they use some of the best milk – from Rochester’s Pittsford Dairy and their pastries are baked locally in their bakeshop. Now, that might not sounds all too unusual for a third wave coffee shop, but having it right in the heart of our campus is truly a privilege.

As far as finding the perfect balance between school work and a coffee date, or grabbing a quick coffee on the way to class and sitting down for a long study session, Java’s has got it figured out, even down to details such as separating the cafe area and bar which allows you to not be distracted by every new customer as they walk in.

Java’s also boasts the largest and most diverse drink menu out of all the coffee shops we visited. If you have yet to visit this campus gem, make sure you stop by soon (you can even pay with Tiger Bucks at the RIT location) especially if you’re feeling in a rut as the walls are lined with all kinds of great artwork to inspire you.

  1. Boxcar

Boxcar prides itself in it’s great coffee and a love for fried things. If that isn’t enough to have you getting straight into your car and driving over, then how about the fact that with it’s beautifully decorated donuts, latte art, and industrial chic, white brick interior, it’s utter #instagoals?

In its location right next to the Rochester Public Market, Boxcar is the perfect destination for a brunch date or refreshments after a morning at the market. Their espresso has a much bolder taste than the other ones we tried, but it pairs quite well with one of their artisan donuts or southern-inspired chicken and waffles on a stick. It’s definitely a place you could take a friend who doesn’t like coffee as they have so many other things to choose from.

The modern industrial chic interior of Boxcar has a surprisingly light and airy feel to it and it’s the perfect place to brunch and people watch.

While you definitely could go there to do some work, it has more of a feeling of a restaurant cafe, so it wouldn’t be our first choice for exam studying – but still a great place to go if you need a coffee and great food break or if you’re in dire need of a new Instagram photo after your feed has been dead since that one time you posted at the beginning of this semester.

  1. Ugly Duck Coffee

When we were doing our research for this coffee shop round up, Ugly Duck immediately jumped on our radar when we found out that their hashtag is #getugly. How could we not check it out?!

Ugly Duck Coffee actually started as a multi-roaster pop-up espresso bar around the city of Rochester and after a year, they finally settled down in Rochester’s East End. Right when you walk in, you can immediately tell that they take their coffee very seriously.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room, Ugly Duck does not have free wi-fi for the customers. *gasp* Why is it so high on the list then, you ask? The simple answer is that their coffee is just that good.

One of the Ugly Duck barista’s won the title of ROC’s favorite barista and we can clearly see why. After walking in, the barista promptly asked us if we needed any assistance. Pleasantly taken slightly off guard, we asked them for their recommendation, which ended in us trying The Snug  (espresso, maple syrup, Fee Brothers Molasses Bitters, steamed milk). It was by far the best espresso we had all day.

Ugly Duck’s commitment to their coffee, the peace-inducing greenery that fills the whole cafe and the fact that they have no upcharge for non-dairy milk brings them to number two on our list – truly a can’t miss location for any coffee aficionado or anyone else looking for an adventure.  

  1. Glen Edith Coffee Roasters

At top of our list is a coffee shop that we feel truly ticked every box in our expectations. Glen Edith offers coffee, Boxcar donuts (read above), lunch options, and a selection of local wine and beer.

As a third wave coffee shop it, Glen Edith seeks out direct trade (farmer to roaster) relationships to ensure the farmers are paid fair wages which then correlates with a higher quality product. Additionally, all their coffee is roasted in Rochester.

So even though you can tell they take their coffee very seriously, the environment makes it feel very inviting and not at all intimidating, like some coffee shops can seem at first glance.

On the walls, you can find beautifully hand-drawn chalk signs that clearly articulate all the differences between a latte, cappuccino, and cortado to make sure anyone can understand what they’re ordering without feeling too intimidated to ask.

The cafe is filled with people from all walks of life – mothers with kids in strollers, young professionals hustling, and friends meeting each other for their weekly catch up – everything about it makes you feel like it’s THE neighborhood hang out spot. What tops it all off is it’s great location in the Park Avenue Neighborhood – you can get coffee then walk around the beautiful streets surrounding the cafe and pop into local craft stores or other restaurants.

So whether you’re looking to find a quaint spot to study, catch up with friends, or just have delicious coffee and food, Glen Edith Coffee is your go-to.

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